There are more than 40 breweries and taprooms in our region, and we chose to start at one of the newest, Alvarado Street Brewery in downtown Monterey, where owner J.C. Hill showed his progress on transforming the old Regency Theatre into a brewpub. Aaron Haas, formerly the sous chef at Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar, is the restaurant's chef and Hill is the brewer.
Chris ordered a tasting tray of five beers that ran from light to dark, including their Belly Up Blonde Ale, Fort Ord Wheat, and Stout Resistance. Most surprisingly: I enjoyed the Legend of Laguna IPA. Typically I avoid IPAs. As Merideth admitted, about herself, “I’m not a hop-head.” But Peter B’s was hugely floral, crisp and, shockingly, my favorite of the bunch.
What made this an the other beers we'd try that day so unusual and delicious? Merideth and Chris, it turned out, were not only deeply knowledgeable guide - they were also gracious and patient teachers, and it was at Peter B's that they began to fill me in on the secrets to great craft brews.
The building blocks of beer are grain, water, yeast and hops. The grain is cracked and steeped in water, altering starches to sugars. That mash is boiled and hops added to create bitterness, balancing out the residual sweetness from the grains. After cooling, yeast is added to kick-off fermentation, converting sugar to alcohol.
Pointing at the tasting cards Peter B's provides, I inquired about IBUs.
IBU refers to the International Bitterness Unit scale which measures the amount of hops in a beer, starting at 0 and going to infinity; Chris and Merideth joked. But it’s only discernible to 100 IBUs. For example, the IPA was 80 but the wheat – more malty, less hoppy – only had 20 IBUs.
“We have felt hugely supported by the other brewers. There is no real sense of competition, says Brewery Twenty Five's Sean Fitzharris. "It’s about camaraderie and community.”
Chris observed, “A rising tide raises all boats.”